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Judge Hears Oral Arguments Over Okla. Admitting Privileges Law

October 20, 2014 — An Oklahoma County District Judge on Friday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit against a state law (SB 1848) requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, the Oklahoman reports (Clay, Oklahoman, 10/18).

The law is scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1. It also requires the state health board to develop operational standards for clinics that perform abortions.

Background

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court on behalf of physician Larry Burns, who performs about half the abortions in the state and is one of just three abortion providers in Oklahoma.

According to the latest suit, Burns will be forced to close his clinic when the law takes effect because he has not been able to obtain admitting privileges at any of the 16 hospitals in qualifying distance of his clinic.

CRR argued that the law violates constitutional rights of equal protection and due process and that it violates a requirement that all bills in the state address only one topic (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/6).

Oral Argument Details

CRR attorney Ilene Jaroslaw urged Judge Bill Graves to issue an injunction blocking the law from taking effect.

Jaroslaw said that Burns had applied and been rejected for admitting privileges at 16 hospitals and had made "diligent efforts" to comply with the requirement.

According to Jaroslaw, two of the hospitals rejected Burns' application because he could not guarantee that his facility would admit at least six patients annually. Jaroslaw said that was indicative of Burns' high quality of care and that he "has an impeccable health record."

Jaroslaw argued that the law's requirements are "very onerous" and unconstitutionally require abortion providers to adhere to the admitting privileges requirement despite the fact that many other doctors perform more risky procedures but are not required to obtain admitting privileges (Talley, AP/Durant Democrat, 10/19). She added that the measure could result in the state's other two clinics -- in Tulsa and Oklahoma City -- having appointment backlogs, if the clinics would be able to remain open at all (Oklahoman, 10/18).

Meanwhile, state Assistant Attorney General Dan Weitman argued that the law was constitutional. He said Burns had waited more than 50 days after the measure was signed into law prior to beginning to seek the required admitting privileges.

Next Steps

Graves said he would issue a ruling on whether to temporarily block the law by next week (AP/Durant Democrat, 10/19).

According to the Oklahoman, Graves is a former state representative who supported several antiabortion-rights measures while in the state Legislature (Oklahoman, 10/18).